I was standing on the tarmac, waiting to board the plane that would take me further from home than I’d ever been, wondering what in the world I was doing. I was terrified. I was moving to the other side of the world to a place where I didn’t know a single person, couldn’t speak the language, and had no real idea about the culture. Getting on that plane was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, it was also one of the best.
(This post is part of an ongoing series of guest blogs sent by individuals who have experienced life abroad as a TESOL/TEFL educator. We would love to share your story. Interested? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!)
I’d finished college and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to travel and see the world but had no idea how to make that happen. I eventually saw an ad in the paper highlighting an opportunity to “Teach English in Korea.” It sounded like an adventure, so I sent off my resume. Within a few short weeks I was standing on that tarmac, with only my stubborn pride keeping me from screaming and running from the plane.
My first few days in Masan, Korea were surreal. It was like I had fallen into a very weird dream. My very first day, the director of the school and her husband took me out for dinner and to get some groceries. The husband was driving, and when we couldn’t find a parking space in the underground parking, he decided to just back into the exit and park right there. No one would dream of doing such a thing at home in Canada!
Everything was so incredibly different from home and everything I’d ever known. I was in a small city, by Korean standards, which still had more people than the entire province of Saskatchewan. Every interaction suddenly presented a challenge, even taking a taxi home was a challenge as the streets didn’t have names and the houses didn’t have numbers. But, these challenges turned into experiences that I’ll never forget.
Within a day or two of arriving, I was in the classroom, and discovered a great, deep passion for teaching. No matter what life was like outside the classroom, spending time with the kids always made things better. The students were respectful, grateful, and loving. Even when I started a new group, and had a student who cried everyday for two weeks straight, it was a joy to be in the classroom each day and see the world through the eyes of preschoolers.
Eventually, I settled into my new life. I began to get to know surroundings while learning more about myself. I even discovered a strength and resilience I didn’t know I had. Before I knew it, one year turned into eleven, one country turned into a dozen, and the the passion for teaching I developed that first year continues be one of the driving forces in my life.
Looking back, I had no way of knowing the wonder and joy that would come after stepping onto that plane. I will forever be grateful that I took the chance that changed my life for the better.
By Coralie Reiniger
For more information on teaching English in Korea, check out our Korea information page. To learn more about your options as a TESOL certified educator, sign up for one of our free information seminars in the city nearest you.